Cumbria PEEL 2015
How well has the force performed in our other inspections?
In addition to the three core PEEL pillars, HMICFRS carries out inspections of a wide range of policing activity throughout the year. Some of these are conducted alongside the PEEL inspections; others are joint inspections.
Findings from these inspections are published separately to the main PEEL reports, but are taken into account when producing the rounded assessment of each force's performance.
As part of HMIC’s annual all-force inspections into police effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (PEEL) in 2015, HMIC assessed how well led forces are at every rank and grade of the organisation and across all areas inspected in PEEL. We reviewed how well a force understands and is developing its leaders; whether it has set a clear and compelling future direction; and how well it motivates and engages the workforce.
Cumbria Constabulary has set out clear expectations for the performance of its workforce. The constabulary has communicated these in various ways, including personal visits by chief officers to police stations and publications on the intranet. However, Cumbria could do more to ensure that its communication is effective, as some staff reported an over-reliance on use of emails and online messages.
The constabulary has created a new leadership and skills framework, which sets out a programme of training and development opportunities for staff at all levels. HMIC welcomes this development and encourages the constabulary to monitor the effectiveness of each programme against the constabulary’s objectives.
How well does the force have a clear understanding of the current state of its leadership at every level?
HMIC examined how well forces understand the strengths and weaknesses of leadership across the force and how well the workforce understands its leadership role. Strong, clear leadership across every rank and grade is vital to the effectiveness and efficiency of a modern and capable police force.
Cumbria Constabulary has a good understanding of its capacity and capability at all levels, having conducted a leadership assessment in 2014. The assessment identified gaps in capability at middle management level and the constabulary recognised that it needed to improve line management capability.
Cumbria has developed a leadership strategy to address this and intends that its managers take greater responsibility for resolving their own people issues, largely because of an anticipated reduction in workforce numbers. In the future, officers will work remotely away from police stations for longer, which the constabulary has recognised makes having strong and effective line managers even more necessary.
While many frontline officers are subject to regular performance reviews with their line managers, this is not true for everyone in the constabulary. Performance reviews afford line managers the opportunity to identify talented individuals, provide personal feedback and discuss performance to set development plans. However, for those not having these discussions, understanding of what is required for individuals’ personal development relies on the personal leadership style of their line managers. Some staff are not experiencing the same level of supervision or accountability as others working in different roles, so the constabulary may be overlooking their leadership potential.
How well has the force provided a clear and compelling sense of the future direction of the organisation?
HMIC examined the extent to which forces have set out a clear, compelling and realistic sense of future direction, because it is important to ensure that the workforce is motivated to build for the future and that the force knows the kinds of skills it is looking to develop. We were also interested to find out how well leaders are making use of new approaches to enable forces to meet future financial challenges.
Chief officers provide clear leadership and direction in the constabulary. Cumbria’s communications strategy ensures that its workforce is updated on any changes that will affect them or the public. This strategy has included visits undertaken by chief officers at roadshow events to communicate messages about change. These visits allow significant numbers of staff to attend and raise concerns. The constabulary also uses its intranet and local leadership teams to communicate key messages.
However, keeping the workforce updated presents real difficulties for senior leaders due to the geography of the county. Many staff we spoke to told us that there is an over-reliance on email to communicate key messages and that, owing to the frequency of email messages received, the importance of key messages is lost. As a result, Cumbria Constabulary cannot be sure that staff are receiving important information about the future direction of the constabulary.
The constabulary is looking to use new approaches and technological opportunities. It has an established social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, which allows it to respond to social media ‘chatter’ and work closely with communities through local messaging from neighbourhood policing teams. The constabulary is developing an internal social network platform called ‘Yatter’, which should afford more direct communication around the constabulary’s future plans and priorities.
How is the force developing leadership, motivating the workforce and encouraging staff engagement?
HMIC examined how well forces identify and develop leadership, as good quality of leadership is key to ensuring that forces overcome their challenges of reducing crime and meeting the needs of victims. We were not looking for one particular style of leadership, but focused on how well leaders motivate their workforce and improve performance to provide a quality service to the public.
The constabulary is developing leadership skills through co-ordinated leadership training programmes. It provides formal leadership training for superintendents and above in partnership with Lancaster University Business School, in the form of an executive leadership programme. The constabulary also conducted a positive pilot scheme, which led the constabulary to offer a leadership and skills programme for its officers and staff at department head or chief inspector level. This programme included assigning participants mentor and undertaking 360-degree feedback to better understand their leadership style.
While the constabulary does have some effective leadership programmes, it needs to do more to effectively identify and develop talent. Its identification of those who are highly talented is inconsistent. While a small number of employees are on the high potential development scheme, there will be limited opportunities for promotion in the future with a reducing workforce.
Chief officers have revised the constabulary’s approach to discussing performance issues. Each territorial policing and business area holds a performance development conference three times a year at which managers at inspector rank, their police staff counterparts and above discuss how they provide local services with chief officers. These meetings enable different issues to be discussed and chief officers to listen to senior managers and provide advice and feedback on their performance.
To what extent is leadership improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of the force?
As good quality leadership is an important factor of policing performance, HMIC examined how leaders are improving the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of forces through clear, reasoned and swift actions. This is the first time HMIC has graded forces on their legitimacy, so no year-on-year comparison is possible for this pillar.
Leadership in Cumbria Constabulary has resulted in a stronger focus on improving its legitimacy in the way it keeps people safe and reduces crime, and its senior leaders have engendered a positive and supportive culture. They know what values and standards the constabulary expects of its staff and officers. During our inspection, HMIC found that the constabulary had communicated this effectively to its employees, so they understood what was expected of them. HMIC also found that the workforce thought senior leaders are open and approachable, and respond to issues and questions raised in a timely manner.
Senior leaders aim to continue to build their knowledge of the culture of the constabulary and have commissioned Durham University to undertake a cultural survey to gain a better understanding of workforce issues.
Encouragingly, workforce wellbeing is a priority, and the constabulary expects police staff and officers to discuss issues relating to wellbeing and development at regular one-to-one meetings with line managers. However, not all staff in every department are afforded this facility and more leadership could be displayed in this area to ensure this practice is more widespread.
A number of road shows to promote the Code of Ethics have been held by the chief officer team and the constabulary has provided all police staff and officers with training on the code. Cumbria encourages its leaders throughout the constabulary to discuss ethical dilemmas with each other, which is a positive step.